Where is Lake Clark National Park?
Lake Clark National Park is located in southeastern Alaska, near and to the west of the Kenai Peninsula. This remote park is not even mapped on the road system, has no address other than that of the park office, and is reachable by only plane or boat. On Cook Inlet, it’s also quite close to the northern Pacific Ocean. The nearest major city is Anchorage, which is about 100 miles northeast.
How Big is Lake Clark National Park?
Lake Clark US National Park is simply colossal, at 4 million acres. Lake Clark itself is 50 miles long and the sixth largest lake in the state. Twin Lakes, tucked into the most remote part of the park is the most visited. The highest elevation in Lake Clark National park is the peak of Redoubt Volcano. It is 10,197 feet above sea level.
Lake Clark National Park Weather
Not surprisingly, this Alaskan park is cold. However, the weather is also variable, due to air masses from the interior colliding with those from the Bering Strait and Gulf of Alaska. The park’s weather also varies because it is so large. The coastal areas experience more moisture and temperate weather than the interior. Average yearly rainfall for the coast is about 60 inches, while it is about 20 inches for the interior. Check the weather in the particular region of the park you will be in, so you can be safe.
Temperatures are often extreme, with the interior dipping down to -40 degrees Fahrenheit. In the summer months, however, you could enjoy brilliant sunshine and temperatures up to 65 degrees. The mountainous terrain makes for channels that winds can gust through—not uncommonly between 30-50 mph. Remember too, that in the months of July and August, the sky doesn’t grow completely dark. It will look like twilight from about midnight to 3 am. The sun will be at eye level for a very long time, so bring your sunglasses. In the winter, there is a period of days in which the sun doesn’t quite rise. With such atypical conditions, you will definitely want to prepare for the changes you’ll experience. And for those willing to brave the temperatures, the park is open all year round.
When did Lake Clark Become a National Park?
While the park became a national monument in 1978 through the Antiquities Act, it did not officially become Lake Clark National Park until December 2, 1980.
Things to do in Lake Clark National Park
There are lots of fun things to do in the park that are hard to come by elsewhere, like fat tire biking! This type of tire works great on the snow and ice. You can also go bear watching and spot almost 200 different types of birds. Our National Park Visitors Guide created a list of the many fun things to see and do at Lake Clark National Park.
Whitewater Kayaking and Rafting
This is a fun activity at the park, especially in the warmer months. Check the website for skill levels, as you’ll want to be sure that your abilities match the challenge. The river is 50 miles long and cold all year long, with Class I - III rapids. Wear your helmet and dry suit and heed safety advisories.
Whether you’re an angler looking for sockeye salmon or more of an ice-fishing person, Lake Clark National Park has world-class fishing you are sure to enjoy. You’ll have many species to choose from in one of the most pristine environments.
Brown bear watching is a rare opportunity and one you should definitely take advantage of if you visit Lake Clark. The park offers special information on how to view the brown bear that congregate along the coast to eat. There is also a video on this experience on the park’s website. You will definitely want to brush up on bear safety while visiting here. While moose actually cause more harm to humans than bear in Alaska, the latter group does it share! You’ll need to exercise appropriate caution, so educate yourself about this beforehand, on the web and at the park.
There are privately run campgrounds at Lake Clark where you can pitch your tent. You will need to bring all of your own food in bear resistant canisters (BRCs) or bear boxes. Throw away garbage in the designated places so that you don’t attract bear. If you don’t want to bring food for every meal, be sure to arrange with one of the lodges near Port Alsworth before heading out.
The park has some of the most challenging and rugged hiking and back-packing terrain to be found. Make sure to be completely self-sufficient, as you cannot assume access to any necessities. Tundra backpacking is wildly popular here.
Salt Marsh Monitoring
Learn all about salt marsh monitoring at Lake Clark National Park. The National Park Service conducts the activity, and the results can tell you a lot about the species that depend on the salt marshes, like brown bear and the many bird species here.
Visit Dick Proenneke's Cabin
This historic cabin on Twin Lakes is in one of the most remote areas of the park. You will have to arrange with your choice of transportation company to get there. It’s worth it however, for the beauty of Twin Lakes and the sight of this rustic cabin from long ago. Bring your camera for this educational excursion.
Fat Tire Biking
Also called fat bikes, fat tire bikes provide some of the best fun you can have at this park. These 2-wheeled vehicles slide over snow and ice with no problems. Using a pack-raft is also a great way to slide along the ice.
With its snow-capped peaks and volcanoes, rare wildlife, and muted colors, Alaska is a photographer’s dream. Nowhere on earth will you find more stunning vistas. You might capture eagles, otters, or brown bear on film, and will definitely catch pretty shadows that the sun casts along mountainsides. Wildflowers are particularly vibrant and low to the ground in this state, due to the growing season and angle of the sun. You won’t want to miss a single shot.
Learn About the Dena’ina
The Dena’ina are a band of the Athabascan people who originally populated the area. Some still do. Local anthropologists work alongside the Dena’ina to provide cultural education at the park. Learn about how the tribe changed over the years with the influx of Russians, Europeans, and Americans.
When to go to Lake Clark National Park
What you want to do in the park will dictate the best time to go. For instance, the park is known for its sockeye salmon. But you’ll have to go in the warmer months to fish for salmon, starting in May and peaking in July. For ice fishing, go in the winter months. Enjoy kayaking and rafting the white waters of the park in the warmer months. When it’s frigidly cold outside, you can take advantage of the educational offerings at the visitor’s center. This national park is open all year round and there is something to do in every season.
Must-Have Things to Bring to Lake Clark
Much of what you’ll need to bring to Lake Clark National Park has to do with staying warm and dry in rugged environs with extreme low temperatures. Importantly, you will only have cellphone coverage near Port Alsworth. Be sure to bring all the things you needed before you owned a smartphone! List of Parks highlights some items you should consider bringing to Lake Clark National Park.
Whitewater Boat and Helmet
If you’ve got your own kayak or raft, be sure to bring it. Or, book a private trip and rent a boat for several people. Don’t forget your oars, helmet, and dry suit. The class I - III rapids can be difficult and Alaskan rivers are cold year-round, so you’ll need to be as safe as possible and wear a drysuit even in the summer.
You need to be largely self-sufficient when enjoying Alaska. Any food should be transported in BRCs. Garbage should be disposed of in designated receptacles to thwart bear foraging. Make sure to have your own food and water and arrange early with one of the privately run lodges for any meals you won’t be bringing.
The park offers professional-quality maps and brochures on their website. Be sure to download them and print them out as you will not have cellphone coverage in most of the park. Remember too, that smartphone batteries often die quickly in very cold temperatures.
Warm and Waterproof Clothes
Rafters will need full drysuits since the waters here are cold all year round. Waterproof gear to go over biking pants and warm layers will be needed for fat tire riding on snow and ice. Wear hats even in July on overcast, cooler days. Trap body heat with layers on top and bottom.
Personal Flotation Device (PFD)
All boaters should wear life-vests regardless of the season or temperature. The waters here are cold year-round. Hypothermia could set in rapidly in most seasons, rendering even the most skilled swimming ineffective. Alaska has the highest number of recreational boating fatalities in the United States.
Sunglasses and Sunscreen
You will be closer to the sun in these mountainous parks, and the sun reflecting off of Lake Clark will expose you to more rays too. If you forgo sunscreen due to the cold temperatures, you will regret it. Bring all types of sun protection.
Bear Resistant Canisters (BRCs)
Those not staying at a lodge need to bring all of their own food. Only some of the campsites have BRCs large enough to hold a cooler, so you may need to bring your own, lest bears be tempted toward you.
Have bear spray on hand, but certainly don’t rely on it. It is merely one way to help maximize safety. Bear live throughout Alaska and in the park. Avoid them by making noise as you move throughout the trails and terrain. This will give them the chance to avoid you before you need to avoid them. Additionally, heed other bear safety advice available at the park.
This park has many accessible areas and things to take advantage of, so don’t miss the opportunity. The park even states its commitment to providing whatever accessible items they can to help those with disabilities enjoy this national treasure. Visit the website to learn more.
Camera, Camera, Camera
Alaska truly has one of the most beautiful and rare landscapes in the world. Its northern latitude captures the light in an entirely different way than it is seen in parts more southern. Without bright, direct sun, hues are often muted and soft, bringing out many shades of each color. Campers may also have the opportunity to view the northern lights. Seeing the bright greens, purples, and reds of the aurora borealis is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Where to Stay in Lake Clark National Park
There is both lodging and camping at this national park. However, it is mainly on private land within the park boundaries, so you’ll have to contact the individual business owners to make reservations. One of the cabins also requires crossing a creek! So, things are pretty primitive in these parts. Take the weather, particularly extreme weather advisories, into consideration if you are planning to camp. Otherwise, the Port Alsworth section of the park has plenty of places to stay. The Lake Country Lodge, the Farm Lodge, or Wilder House Bed & Breakfast are just a few good choices.
Food Nearby Lake Clark
Unless you are staying at a lodge, you will either have to bring all of your own food or arrange to take meals at one of the lodges. If you are taking your own food, you must use bear resistant BRCs or bear boxes. Large BRCs are available at only some campsites, so check ahead. Trash must be disposed of in areas specified, so bears are not lured to human populations. Another option is the restaurants in the area outside the park. Chances are good that you’ll be able to sample some reindeer sausage, which is delicious.
Airports Near Lake Clark National Park
Anchorage is the nearest major airport, and is about 100 miles to the northeast of Lake Clark National Park. However, travel by small plane is extremely common in Alaska, where the snowy, frozen terrain frequently impedes travel by car or boat. Plane or boat are the only ways to get to the park, so check out the website for information on how to book your flight in. There are a number of air taxis from around the area—including Anchorage, Wasilla, Kenai, and Port Alsworth. Where in the park you want to go and what you want to do will determine how you get there. It may very well involve a small plane with floats in addition to wheels, for summer water landings.